Rhymes for Young Ghouls is a 2013 film showing the struggles of Native youth against white authority, as personified by the reservation agent and the boarding school he runs. The setting is the Red Crow M’igMaq Reservation from 1969 to 1976. The film’s heroine is played by Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, Mohawk from Kahnawake, Quebec, where the movie was filmed. It is well-cast, with interesting symbolic imagery and great music. View the trailer. The movie can be watched on Vudu.
Young Ghouls recalls the mystical atmosphere of Beasts of the Southern Wild, but is more confrontational and less hopeful. The story rests in the on-going struggle against cultural genocide and leaves you with the message that the struggle is… on-going. The symbolism is especially interesting to explore. The young ghouls are clearly our teen heroes, who dress in Halloween costumes during the climatic confrontation. They remind us of the opening dialogue regarding children lost to the government school and becoming zombies, and a dream-like story from grandmother involving a wolf that eats many dead children (as well as itself). Perhaps our young ghouls are rising from the dead, or the near-death of cultural imperialism, to reclaim their identities. They receive guidance from several elders and our heroine’s father, who sacrifices himself twice, for crimes he did not commit, to spare his family. The wolf may represent white power, and calls to mind this essay on colonialism as a trickster.
Here are some of the awards the film has won, as listed at Indian Country News:
Best Director: Jeff Barnaby, American Indian Film Festival 2014
Best Actor: Glen Gould, American Indian Film Festival 2014
Best Canadian Feature Film, Vancouver International Film Festival 2013
Best Director of a Canadian Film: Jeff Barnaby, Vancouver Film Critics Circle 2014
Best Canadian First Feature: Jeff Barnaby, Vancouver Film Critics Circle 2014
Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role: Roseanne Supernault, Red Nation Film Festival 2014